What Irish Trump voters think now: ‘His policies are marvellous’
Four emigrants who voted for Donald Trump reflect on his first year in office
Aileen Deeter: ‘I nickname Hillary ‘Killary’. She is a liar.’
In the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, The Irish Times interviewed six Irish emigrants who planned to vote for Trump. Now that he is their president, how do they feel?
AILEEN DEETER: ‘Immigration has gone crazy’
Aileen Deeter is a Dubliner who lives outside Kansas City. If she had the choice again, she would ignore both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton and probably scribble in the name of Clinton’s Democratic rival Bernie Sanders on her ballot.
The prison nurse (52), who has been resident in the United States since 1991, does not regret voting for Trump in the 2016 presidential election. She feels she had a limited choice between the two candidates and did not like Clinton. “I voted for him in the hope of not getting her,” she says.
But today Deeter looks differently on her vote and the consequences of Trump’s policies. Last week, while returning home to the US after spending Christmas with family, an incident at customs and immigration at Dublin Airport caused Deeter to think again about the kind of administration she helped vote into office.
A security guard asked her to stand in a particular spot in the queue and then asked her to move twice again. When a US immigration officer heard her use an expletive as she complained about being moved around so many times, he grew angry. “How dare you disrespect me,” he said. The incident left Deeter’s 13-year-old daughter in tears and other airport staff perplexed, she says.
Deeter, a dual US-Irish citizen, was detained at US pre-clearance immigration until her Chicago-bound flight had departed. Missing the flight also meant missing a surgery that her son had two days later. She had to buy new air tickets and missed a number of days of work as a result of what happened at the airport. The incident was “terrifying and humiliating”, she says.
“If somebody else was in power, I wouldn’t have gone through that. The whole immigration system has gone crazy under Trump. I totally think that this has something to do with his leadership,” she says.
Deeter says that Trump’s capacity to “spout off” on Twitter without thinking can be “pretty scary” but his voters concentrate on his actions, not his words.
“You have to look at what he does against what he has said. I wish he would stop tweeting; it is embarrassing. I guess it is one of the personality traits that you have to take with this person,” she says.
BRENDAN HURLEY: ‘It boils down to optimism’
Under the tax reforms signed into law by Trump just before Christmas, Hurley’s software company and car dealership in central Florida will pay less tax. His sales were up 20 per cent last year as record share prices, soaring home values, a buoyant economy and lower taxes encouraged Americans to buy new cars.
“What it boils down to is optimism with people and the future for their jobs and employment,” says the 62-year-old businessman, who emigrated from Ireland 40 years ago.
“It is all about confidence and cash, and the cash generally follows the confidence. I have had to give everybody pay rises because I want to keep the employees that I have.”
Hurley feels the US media has not given Trump his due on the stewardship of the economy and the value he believes will come from the future economic growth as a result of the tax reforms.
“The media has become so partisan that if this guy walked on water, the media would find fault with it,” he says.
He dismisses fears about Trump’s aggressive rhetoric against North Korea and bragging that his nuclear button is bigger than Kim Jong-un’s as “a bunch of bulls**t”. The recent book by media commentator and columnist Michael Wolff that questioned Trump’s mental stability was “nothing more than the National Enquirer”, he says.
Accusations of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians is “complete bulls**t”, while he claims the president’s equivocation on the racial violence in Charlottesville was – echoing Trump’s favourite insult to the media – “fake news”.
He even agrees that Haiti and some African countries are “s**tholes”, as Trump is accused of having said in a meeting about immigrants.
“The most important thing for the man in the street is what is in his paycheck next week. Everything else is smoke and mirrors,” says Hurley.
Trump will “absolutely” get re-elected in 2020, he declares, despite the fact he does not like the Republican’s brashness or arrogance.
“It is a turn-off but the results are there to offset the turn-off. If you have got a salesman who is a brash, braggart individual but who sells twice as many as the next guy, you are not going to fire him,” he says.
DERRY CONNOLLY: ‘A strong US is good’
Derry Connolly, emigrated from west Cork in 1977, has no regrets about voting for Trump in 2016. He runs a small Catholic college in southern California and is pleased that the economy under Trump has been booming and that his administration is pro-business. He finds the increasing polarisation in US politics “disturbing”.
“Most candidates from the right could not have stood up to the assaults from the left in the way Trump has. I have no optimism that civility will return to political discourse any time soon,” he says.
Connolly (63) blames the US Congress for failing to follow through on Trump’s promise to repeal and replace Obamacare, the last president’s signature healthcare reforms. He does not believe Republicans and Democrats will find common ground to reach a solution to the country’s immigration system. Immigrants are “political footballs”, especially in California, he says.
He finds Trump’s “s**thole” comments less offensive that Obama’s remarks during the 2008 campaign about white working-class voters clinging to their guns and religion.
“Politicians increasingly insult groups of people. The left are always excused by the media, while the right are always nailed,” he says.
Connolly supports Trump’s “strong stand” on North Korea. “A strong US is good for world peace after eight years of Obama waffling,” he says.
Trump’s re-election chances in 2020 will come down to his opponent; he believes a centrist Democrat would beat the Republican.
“I expect he will run,” he says. “I expect it will be close.”
DIARMUID HOGAN: ‘His policies are marvellous’
Diarmuid Hogan, a wealthy Irish-born businessman who made his fortune from insurance and investments, was a reluctant Trump voter – he preferred other Republican presidential candidates – but he is very happy with the president’s policies and his stewardship of the economy.
“Every economic metric is positive,” says Hogan, a dual US-Irish citizen who emigrated from Marino in Dublin more than a half-century ago.
“There are so many positive things going on. He is not exactly the normal, lying politician. He is a New York construction guy. He has been around tough competitors but his policies are marvellous and they have done wonders for the US economy.”
As an example, Hogan (73) cites the decision of tech giant Apple on Wednesday to invest more than $30 billion to expand its US operations and create more than 20,000 new jobs in the wake of Trump’s tax cut last month.
He also refers to the trillions in dollars in value added to American pension funds on the back of rising share prices (though about half of all Americans don’t have pensions).
“The man has achieved an awful lot,” says Hogan, who lives in South Carolina and has homes in Dublin, New York, the Cayman Islands and Mexico.
The businessman, who backed Barack Obama in 2008, would vote “hands down” for Trump again, he says, but he is wary of predicting whether the president will win re-election in 2020 because it is years away.
“If things go as they are going now, I think he will win in a landslide,” he said. “I don’t see anybody in the Democratic Party who could touch him.”